Friday, July 2, 2010
Brian Fuentes Closes Down Texas; Michael Bourn Triples in 10th for Houston Win
Players of the Day for Thursday, July 1, 2010 American League Closers don't generally earn Player of the Day honors, mostly because they only work one inning in a game, but their importance to winning teams cannot be understated. One such player is Brian Fuentes of the LA Angels. There was considerable discussion early in the season that Francisco Rodney was going to replace Fuentes as the closer, especially after Fuentes failed to get the job done on a couple of occasions, particularly when he blew save chances against Detroit on April 21 and Tampa on May 10. As the weather heated up, however, so did Fuentes, who, with his 3-out save against the Rangers in Thursday's nail-biting, 2-1 win, has now converted his last nine save opportunities and hasn't allowed a hit over his past four innings pitched, all resulting in saves. The win for the Angels allowed them to pick up a game on the front-running Rangers, winning two of their three-game series, as Fuentes picked up saves in both wins. He has 14 on the season - well below the league leaders - but mostly because the Angels have not been performing up to their usual standards. Trailing the Rangers by 3 1/2 games, nobody expects the Angels - winners of three straight AL West titles - to go away any time soon, and with Rodney and Fuentes at the back of the pitching staff, they're not likely to give up many late leads, either. Also in this game, Josh Hamilton's hitting streak ended at 23 straight, as the Texas outfielder went 0-for-3 with a walk, striking out twice. The streak stands as the best in the majors this season. National League Michael Bourn wasn't having a very good game. After going 0-for-3 with a walk over the first eight innings against the Padres, he finally got it going with a leadoff single in the 9th, with the game tied at three. After being sacrificed over to second, his Astro teammates failed to get him home, and, after the Padres also came up empty in the bottom of the 9th, the game went into extra innings. In the 10th, Bourn made the most of his chance at the plate. With runners on first and second with two outs, Bourne delivered a 2-run triple to put the Astros up 5-3, and scored on Jeff Keppinger's single to right, finalizing the score in Houston's 6-3 win over Dan Diego. Since the end of interleague play, Bourn has come on with a flourish. Over his last four games, all on the road, he's hitting .421 (8-for-19) and has 6 RBI, 3 steals and has crossed the plate 5 times. Even though the Astros are 13 games out in the NL Central, Bourn and his teammates have begun to turn things around a bit, winning 6 of their last 9.